Expert tips to help you maintain an older vehicle

Automotive experts in Atlanta say older adults tend to hang on to their vehicles longer. They say that’s bolstered by older drivers being more diligent in maintenance and service than their younger counterparts.

So, why is that?

“A variety of reasons,” said Joel Gentle, an automobile dealership consultant in Atlanta and former service manager. “(Older adults) don’t necessarily feel like they need the flashy new car and a lot of them are on fixed incomes.”

Studies show the average age of a roadway vehicle is 12.5 years old, according to automotive data provider S&P Global Mobility. But dealerships and car repair shops in Atlanta say they’re seeing a goodly number of older adults bringing in cars that have 15, 20 years, and more on them.

Some of the recommended maintenance tips for keeping a post-retirement vehicle humming for many years are familiar, others have a new twist.

Car care experts say maintenance intervals have been extended for newer vehicles well beyond traditional car care recommendations, enabling them to show a lower cost of overall operation on their stickers.

This is the case with oil changes, for example.

Gentle said stickers on some new vehicles show suggested oil change intervals of as much as ten thousand miles. Just to be safe, he sticks to five.

Another case involves sparkplugs.

John Spilane of Atlanta Car Care said some manufacturers say a new-car tune-up isn’t necessary for 100,000 miles.

“There isn’t a sparkplug on the planet that’s going to last 100 thousand miles,” said Spilane. In line with that, he suggests new coolant, brake fluid, and power steering fluid — if the car is so equipped as to need it — each couple of years and transmission fluid every 15,000 miles. And obtain new sparkplugs much sooner.

All that’s part of the regular 24-point inspection at his shop, said Marion Brown, manager of AAA Chastain Park Car Care Plus. He said it covers everything from filters and wiper blades to brakes to fluid levels, belts and hoses and light bulbs. Most places do a version of the same thing. He said headlights and good lighting all the way around assumes special importance for older adults.

And take note Brown said: “One of the worst things you can do to a vehicle is allow it to sit,” saying that that can lead to such problems as failed gaskets or dry-rotting hoses. Batteries can weaken and die as well, a particular problem with vehicles equipped with hybrid and electric batteries.

And in a nod to the tendency of the retired not to drive as much, “when you bring your car in for service,” he said, “there are two ways of reminding you of the next service, mileage or date. If your next service is 15,000 miles and you only drive 5,000 miles a year, you may want to go by the date.”

All of those maintenance points make fewer messy and expensive repairs and for a longer vehicle lifespan, the experts said.

“When I was a kid you always heard that when a car got 100,000 miles on it it was worn out,” said Gentle. Now, he said, properly maintained wheels can continue humming along until the 300,000-mile mark.

One more note on the maintenance front comes from Spilane, who said, “with the traffic Atlanta has one should be more diligent with their maintenance than if you were in a rural area. Air filters clog up more frequently, for example.”

Brown of AAA said it’s important to establish a relationship with those who service and sometimes repair your car — one based on such factors as honesty and track record.

As he puts it, “just becoming a familiar face. It’s a good situation for an older adult.”

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